Profligate Celtic take points despite late scare

Anthony Stokes celebrates his early goal for Celtic with provider Stefan Johansen. Picture: SNS
Anthony Stokes celebrates his early goal for Celtic with provider Stefan Johansen. Picture: SNS
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IN WHAT may well have been the last match of Kenny Black’s brief sojourn in the managerial chair at Motherwell, his ten men almost pulled off a miraculous draw which should never have been on the cards, so dominant were Celtic.

Motherwell 0-1 Celtic

Scorer: Celtic - Stokes (6)

Black’s chances of becoming permanent manager – now there’s a footballing oxymoron – would have been boosted massively had Lee Erwin’s late header been on target. Motherwell would have gained an equaliser and the 20-year-old striker would then have had the chance of a winner, as he curled a shot wide in injury time.

Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon acknowledged as much: “We could have been caught out at the end as they had a free header in the six-yard box. The longer the game goes there is always going to be that one chance to get something from the game, even with ten men.

“There’s not an awful lot you can do in that situation, unless he hits me with it. Either side would have been a goal but luckily for us he put it past the post.”

Even a single point for the home side would have been undeserved and the fact is that Celtic’s own profligacy in front of goal combined with a second successive prodigious performance in defeat by Motherwell goalkeeper Dan Twardzik kept the scoreline to a single counter.

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Anthony Stokes’s goal after six minutes was the result of defensive errors, John Guidetti hustling Fraser Kerr into a poor pass back to Twardzik that Simon Ramsden inexplicably failed to shepherd, allowing Stefan Johansen to nip in and round the goalkeeper before laying the ball on the proverbial plate for Stokes.

Apart from a couple of efforts from distance by Iain Vigurs and Henrik Ojamaa, Motherwell offered no real threat until Erwin came on for John Sutton in the 79th minute.

By then, Celtic had squandered a plethora of chances, while Ramsden’s deserved dismissal after 66 minutes should have sealed ‘Well’s fate. Guidetti and Forrest were both clean through and shot wide as Twardzik came out to narrow the target, before the goalkeeper made the first of a succession of saves, the first from Johansen and then, in the second half, five top-class stops of efforts by Stokes, Emilio Izaguirre, Forrest and Guidetti twice.

Erwin admitted that he should have done better with his late chance: “I just tried to place it with a glancing header but I didn’t think I would have that much time. I watched it again on the laptop after the game and if I had the chance again I probably would have chested it down.”

One sour note from the game was that Motherwell, as they can do under the current laws, played on after Efe Ambrose went down injured and in obvious pain in the Celtic penalty box – stupid law, referees must act in such situations.

Gordon reacted angrily, throwing the ball over the East Stand roof: “I didn’t want to throw it into the crowd so I thought I’d aim for the rather large advertising board at the top. Unfortunately I missed!”

Celtic’s next match up is a Europa league dead rubber against Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian capital on Thursday. Celtic are already through, the group placings having been decided and, though manager Ronny Deila has made all the right noises about the importance of the game, he admitted he will use the tie to give fringe players a chance to show what they can do.

In Motherwell’s case, the next “matches” that will arrive at Fir Park Stadium this week are new owners and a new manager – rumours that the former will be the Motherwell Community Supporters Trust have not been denied.

As befits a man who has made a decent fist of being Motherwell’s caretaker manager, tomorrow Black will have the last chance to say why he should be given the job permanently after five other interviewees have been seen, three of them today.

The favourite for the job is former manager Terry Butcher, who has impressed the current board, but Black has the support of the players.

Erwin said: “We all just want things to progress as soon as possible. Hopefully, Kenny sticks around. He’s a good manager.”

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